Sramana Mitra: About 10 or 12 years ago I worked with a mechanical design company, and we sold to all your customer base – the machinery, the discrete manufacturing, etc. What is today’s state of the union in the interface between CAD and manufacturing execution?
Jason Blessing: It is important, and we actually have a partnership with a CAD drawing software package that is very popular with our customers, and it is integrated with our manufacturing execution system as well as quality. When a worker is setting up a line to run a particular product, he or she can actually pull up the CAD drawings right inside of Plex and make sure that the checklists, which are preconfigured, run on the line. The other area we are integrated in is in quality. Depending on what the requirements are around quality testing for a particular part or product are, the quality engineers will do spot testing at the end of a run and make sure the tolerances and the configuration of the product are in accordance with the CAD’s specs.
SM: When I was working in this company, one of the key differentiators was the integration of 3-D CAD and product data management systems in one integrated environment. Then the PDM would interface with the PL and the product life cycle management systems. That was how the workflow was envisioned at that time.
Patrick Fetterman [VP of marketing]: I would like to jump in and mentioned that it is Actify that is the partner we work with for CAD.
SM: Interesting. So, what is your impression of the manufacturing industry’s enthusiasm or lack thereof in adapting the cloud?
JB: That is an interesting question. There is a misconception out there that manufacturers are slow in adopting new technology. I think what is more the case is that manufacturers adopt the technology when it is ready to meet their exacting and demanding needs. If you take a look at manufacturers on the whole, they are some of the first companies that adapted technologies and proved them out, like EDI, Wireless, etc. We have been running Plex on wireless devices in manufacturing facilities for more than 10 years. Now it is suddenly a buzz in enterprise software. Manufacturers have always been looking for innovative technologies to apply to their business and improve their operations. But I think we are just now at a point where cloud technology – and I am specifically speaking about feature functionality – is mature enough that manufacturers are comfortable enough handing in their operations to a cloud-based vendor.
SM: My impression is not that manufacturers are slow in adapting new technology. It is just that the barriers are high. Systems that are already inside manufacturing operations take a lot of energy to yank out and be replaced with new systems.
JB: You are right about that. The benefits of the cloud are increasingly understood by manufacturers, and it is becoming a catalyst for them. But I also think the feature functions have been an issue previously.
SM: Switching gears a bit, I know Francisco Partners likes to also do roll-ups as a growth strategy. When you look around in your industry, what other things do you see? What are other interesting technologies? Are they ones you could bring in and craft around your $50 million trunk to move faster?
JB: We are not a roll-up play, we are a growth play. A big part of how we differentiate is we are one stop-shopping for medium-sized manufacturers like the ones we talked about. For us the accelerator to growth is more about visibility and awareness of our company rather than something we don’t have. We are focused on organic growth right now, investing in our product, keeping a pure and unified platform and growing that way.
SM: Are your sales completely direct, or are you also working through a channel partner?
JB: The majority of it today is direct. It is certainly an opportunity for us to expand our channels. That is one of the areas from a go-to-market perspective that we are expanding in. We do have a small handful of implementation partners we work with – Baker Tilly, Revolution Group, and Plante Moran, which are all very good partners to us. We are continuing to invest in those relationships and expanding to include other firms in the implementation side of things as one of the ways to grow our business and help support the ambition around growth support and direct sales.